I’m a writer in New York City, which means I'm also an anxious workaholic, overly-engaged, exhausted and constantly spinning.
I wouldn't exactly win a prize for taking care of my body either, often choosing my craft over a trip to the gym. So when I decided to help lead a yoga and creative writing retreat last summer, I was unsure how I felt. Who was I to feel expansive, beautiful and holy? Who was I to stop working and do this "yoga thing?"
I was conflicted by a fear of my own body and a looming sense of guilt. Was "self-care" really for me? Despite, I entrusted faith in my fellow co-leader, Maiga, the yogi of our duo, and opened myself up to what yoga could offer.
Despite sore muscles, I huffed my way through poses and occasionally broke out into wild laughter. What bliss and relief! With each postural adjustment, I was reminded to lose my words and identity. During meditation, something unhooked, loosened and shook free.
Finding balance between mind and body was an astounding revelation. Until then, I had clung to my identity as a method of staying alive. I learned to set down, if only for a moment, any preconceived notions I had about myself in favor of a divine interconnectedness with all of life.
In a world where we cannot escape our skin, we are still free to fly wherever we choose... right inside our minds. And how crucial this was for a writer to experience — this freedom and expansiveness — buried deep underneath all the layers of work.
Here are five ways yoga can infuse your writing practice with new life, making you a better writer:
1. You will notice a deeper connection to your senses.
Many of us are dependent on our cellphones, filtering the world through a screen, instead of observing what is actually happening right in front of us. How are we as writers supposed to create vibrant work without truly experiencing the world around us?
Yoga offers us the chance to be inside our bodies and observe the inner landscape without judgement, attachment or fear. This simple connection can break open new channels to incorporate the senses into writing, or help surface ideas buried deep in our body’s physical memory. Movement gets us out of our heads and into another experience, ripe for creativity.
2. You are less concerned about external validation of your work.
It is not uncommon for creative people to be especially attached to audience reactions and acceptance from community for their work. The conundrum, of course, is that we absolutely must learn to unhook from external validation if we are ever to create anything of true worth or value.
Yoga offers a release from the noise, pressures and internal judgments that pull us away from experiencing clarity. Yoga helps us to press the pause button, opening up a small window in the mind to see vast blue sky. After yoga, my mind is cleared of the day’s stress and my writing is better. I widened the canvas so the words can move more freely.
3. You won't have to suffer for your art.
And artists need as much of that medicine as we can get! While a long-held stereotype, there is certainly truth in the legacy of innovative artists plagued with mental illness. Anything that pushes our brain outside the norm — whether through drugs, illness or experience — will shift our perspective. But many of these artists died tragically; suicide, breakdowns and drug abuse.
How do we celebrate our creative capacity without romanticizing a painful experience? How can we foster a healthier promise to our well-being and still pursue our art? By flowing, bending, moving and allowing ourselves to just be, we can expand to fill our container without compromising our mental state. Yoga is a good place to start.
4. Your concept of time is expanded.
I am guilty of participating in the manic rush to make all of my ideas a reality while my body and mind fall by the wayside. I need something to not only slow me down, but also remind that there is time, that though my existence is finite, it can also be expansive.
Yoga allows us to see through a different lens — to witness a greater framework than what's on the to-do list. Not everything has to be done tomorrow, yoga says. There is time.
5. Writers' block becomes obsolete.
Writers’ block is an author’s own worst enemy. Those of us who’ve faced that demon know that sitting in front of a blinking screen or a blank page will do little to move along the tired engine.
Yoga is all about moving through that stuckness, by stretching, aligning, balancing and flowing. When the mind is up against a wall, it probably isn’t the mind that’s going to remove the barrier. The body can step in and create a shift in our entire being. We're given a gentle reminder that the wall is not a wall at all, as we turn the knob and open the door to our infinite possibilities.